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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Trainspotting

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle
Director: Danny Boyle
Rated: R
RunTime: 94 Minutes
Release Date: July 1996
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Cult

*Also starring: Ewen Bremner, Susan Vidler, Shirley Henderson, Peter Mullan, Pauline Lynch, Kevin McKidd, Kelly Macdonald, Jonny Lee Miller

Review by MrBrown
3½ stars out of 4

While ID4 ate up all of the mainstream press the months leading up to its release, the independent film community was all abuzz over Trainspotting, which had gone on to be the second-highest grossing British production of all time (behind Four Weddings and a Funeral). Danny Boyle's heroin drama has finally washed up on U.S. shores, and this sometimes surreal, always harrowing film truly is unlike anything anyone has ever seen in recent years.

This brisk, darkly humorous, 95-minute ride follows one Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor of Boyle's Shallow Grave), an aimless Scottish youth who, with his buddies--the dimwitted Spud (Ewen Bremner) and Sean Connery-obsessed con artist Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller)--choose not to "choose life," opting instead for the empty but pleasurable life of heroin addiction. The film follows Mark and the gang as they quit and get hooked again, have disastrous flings with women, have a couple of sick--but hilarious--mishaps with feces, and get in trouble with their violent, hard-drinking (but not drug-using) friend Begbie (Robert Carlyle).

Trainspotting, based on Irvine Welsh's controversial novel of the same name, has been accused of glamorizing heroin, and it does... to a point. While Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge, through the use of a voiceover delivered by Mark, never deny the pleasure in shooting heroin, the visual cues speak for themselves: everyone lives in filthy, cramped apartments on the brink of collapse; everyone appears unclean and is prone to passing out and defacating on oneself. The more surreal moments, which Boyle uses to capture the addict's state of mind, may hold some appeal and serve as convincing pro-heroin propaganda for the most impressionable viewer, but, as a whole, Boyle and Hodge don't smooth over all of the rough edges--witness the manic, bizarre, but unsettling withdrawal scene that occurs about halfway.

If Trainspotting has a major flaw, it is in the area of character development. McGregor is a likable actor, and he thus makes Mark sympathetic to the audience, but Mark remained somewhat of a mystery. Sure, he tosses off a couple of good one-liners and enjoys heroin, but I wasn't so sure what motivated him, save for that abstract concept of "not choosing life." This becomes especially bothersome come halfway through the film, when his personality and look on life takes a dramatic turn; it is apparently brought on by a comment made by his teenage sometimes-lover (Kelly Macdonald), but I'm not completely convinced that was all that motivated it.

Miramax seems to be touting Trainspotting as the next Pulp Fiction, but I don't think it'll catch on here as it did overseas. While it is a fine example of efficient, resourceful filmmaking, with the sharp writing and dark humor that characterized Pulp, it is not as easily accessible, at least not for an American audience. All of the actors have thick Scottish accents and speak in the local slang, which will be largely inscrutable to Yankee ears, and I'm not so sure the bulk of America is ready to embrace an admittedly odd film about the glories of heroin addiction. What it will attract is a loyal--and sizable--cult following.

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